This Wild Card Wednesday, we have another installment of the series I do with Tiffany A. White on movie originals vs. remakes. This month’s movie was The Thing. Tiffany did the remake—which we learned was not actually a remake but a prequel. As usual, I did the original.
[Note to self: I wonder if it ends up this way because I’m a little more long in the tooth than Tiffany. Add to list of things to think about.]
Appreciation of any movie, book, or other piece of art is heightened by learning about the person who shared his vision.
John Carpenter directed The Thing. He also played a bit part as one of the Norwegian scientists at the beginning of the movie. Before The Thing, John Carpenter had already made a name with films such as Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, Escape from New York, The Fog and The Eyes of Laura Mars.
John Carpenter’s style was influenced by directors John Ford and Howard Hawks. Preferring the widescreen (or Panavision format), Carpenter creates stylish, detailed sets that orient the audience to his vision. He uses minimal lighting for a dark, gritty atmosphere and is known for writing his own scores.
Listen to a compilation of John Carpenter’s scores below:
Now that we have established that I’m a Level 3 Nerd Fan of John Carpenter, let’s move on to The Thing.
The Thing (1982)
The Thing (1982) is sometimes considered a remake of the 1951 Howard Hawks film The Thing from Another World. The two movies, however, are simply based on the same source material, which is the John W. Campbell novella “Who Goes There?” (1938). Of the two movies, John Carpenter’s The Thing follows the plot of “Who Goes There” more closely.
Plot summary of The Thing:
Scientists in the Antarctic are confronted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of the people that it kills. (Courtesy of IMDB.Com)
Watch the trailer:
The Thing starred Kurt Russell (who is on my “he’s hot” list). The movie spent three weeks in the box office top ten. Despite its popularity, The Thing lost out at awards time to E. T. and Poltergeist.
John Carpenter is known for changing the slasher horror genre with his film Halloween. With The Thing, Carpenter influenced the way horror cinema approached special effects. Film critic Robert Ebert praised the film’s special effects, saying “among the most elaborate, nauseating, and horrifying sights yet achieved by Hollywood’s new generation of visual magicians.”
Rob Bottin—who worked on both The Howling and The Fog—did most of the special effects.
My favorite was the one where the head turned into a spider:
The dog effect–which is equally gruesome–was done by Stan Winston.
Though John Carpenter is known for doing his own movie scores, he hired Ennio Morricone to do the score for The Thing. Though Morricone was known for creating scores for westerns, he captured the style John Carpenter used in his other films. His theme does its job in completing the movie’s eerie, barren atmosphere.
At The Thing’s core—and what makes it such a cool movie—is watching paranoia overcome and divide the human characters. The shape-shifting alien can imitate its host perfectly. How do you hunt something like that?
The humans in the film turn on each other with accusations and murder attempts. They imprison one guy in a outbuilding. They create tests to try to figure out which one is hosting the thing.
This clip is a lighthearted moment at the end of a test devised to find the monster:
The Thing is a horror classic. It marked the beginning of “barf bag” special effects in horror movies. It’s a study in human nature. I’ve probably seen it no fewer than twenty times, and I still cringed at certain parts while I rewatched it for this blog post.